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Syria Snap Analysis: The Escalation of Death --- What Comes Next?

An edition of Al Jazeera English's Inside Story asks, "Is Syria in a State of Civil War?"

See also Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Will a Few Thousand Deaths Change Anything?

According to the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria, 1432 people were killed by the Assad regime in the week up to yesterday, 26 August, including 440 on Saturday, and 244 on Sunday. In addition to headline of the mass killing in Darayya, near Damascus, there was a high death toll in Daraa Province, as air strikes ravaged the birthplace of the peaceful protests of March 2011:

85 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs; including more than 45 martyrs in Daraya, 76 in Daraa; most of them in a massacre in Busra Al-Sham, 36 in Aleppo, 21 in Idlib, 12 in Hama, 11 in Homs, 1 in Lattakia, 1 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Qunaitra.

The pattern of last week's violence is becoming clearer, and more disturbing. In the areas that have resisted the regime the hardest, the bombs fell, then the shells, then the helicopters attacked, then the tanks and the soldiers entered the towns and cities. Pro-regime infantry and militia killed on a grand scale, targeting all fighting-aged men in places like Moudamyah and Darayya.

With this amount of escalation, people are already talking about the consequences. Some have suggested that the civilians will tire of the fighting and blame the Free Syrian Army insurgents for inviting this level of retaliation. Some have suggested that this level of violence may pull more fighting-aged men into the fight. Clearly, this level of violence has pushed an unprecedented number of refugees out of the country and into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, and many more will likely try to flee. However, these countries are running out of room, and there are rumours that Turkey is already turning away refugees.

Perhaps the most pressing question on everyone's mind is what the world will do about the deepening crisis. While there are new initiatives being launched by Turkey, Iran, and some of Syria's other neighbours, there is no idea what these will be or whether they will have any chance of success. The reaction of the West, particularly the US, has been described as "deafening silence" by many. Even worse, the escalation of the amount of deaths and the level of brutality used by the Assad regime seems to correspond to statements made by US President Barack Obama suggesting that the only trigger for US intervention would be the use or endangerment of Syria's chemical weapons supplies. It is even being argued by some that this statement gave the Assad military the green light to use any means necessary of beating back the insurgency to ensure that those stockpiles were never threatened enough to make Washington nervous.

The situation in Syria is spiralling out of control, and each day seems to bring worse news than the last. This may be the week that fence-sitters, both foreign powers and Syrians, feel that they are forced to pick sides in an attempt to end this crisis, or at the very least save their own skins.

It is far from clear which side will hemorrhage the most supporters, or gain the most powerful allies. Then again, for the thousands have died in the last few weeks, and the thousands who will likely die in the next week, and the millions of Syrians whose lives have been permanently changed by this crisis, who "loses" is being eclipsed by the people who are losing.

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